Jean: There will be no excuses

Jean de Villiers has confirmed that the six changes made to the Springbok team should not inhibit South Africa’s chances of a victory.

The Western Province inside centre has not played much rugby with Butch James or Wynand Olivier, and yet these three men will comprise the heart of the Springbok team in the midfield on Saturday. De Villiers dismissed claims that new personnel could do more harm than good.

“Settled combinations are important, but then again, we have had sufficient time to prepare and implement our structures with a new combination,” he explained to keo.co.za. “There will be no excuses.”

While De Villiers hails from the Cape, James and Olivier play their rugby for the Sharks and Bulls teams respectively. De Villiers has partnered Olivier on one occasion, but has never played outside James. He is also the only one out of the three midfielders who played in Dublin to have retained his position, with Andre Pretorius being dropped and Bryan Habana being shifted out onto the wing.

“Both Andre and Butch are excellent distributors and are very similar in certain aspects of the game,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that Andre has been dropped, but at the same time I’m looking forward to playing with Butch.

“Myself and Wynand have played one game together and we were successful then, so hopefully we can replicate that performance this time round. It has been going very well on the training field and we are confident that this week will see an improvement.”

The Bok forward pack were outclassed at Lansdowne Road, but what hurt most in the 15-32 loss was the 18 linebreaks the Irish were able to affect. Three changes have since been made to the South African backline, as well as two positional switches.

England have also rung the changes, and once again De Villiers believes that they will lose nothing in bringing players like Mathew Tait, Mark Cueto and Josh Lewsey back into the mix. The centre-partnership of Tait and Jamie Noon will also be one the Boks will look to disrupt early on, although De Villiers does not see this as a potential weak spot.

“I think it’s a very good backline, and we’ll have to produce something special to outplay them on the day.

“Noon and Tait have played together for Newcastle, so as a combination they should be quite used to each other. It will be a tough challenge for us even if England is on a losing streak. It’s still a Test match and we haven’t won here since 1997.”

While De Villiers and the rest of the Bok camp are well aware of the significance of this match, he believes all negative attitudes and baggage should be left on the sideline.

“If you are going to go out there thinking you can’t beat England because of what has happened in the past, then what’s the use of playing? You need to remain positive; you need to believe you can win regardless of what has happened before.”

By Jon Cardinelli, in London